Here are five rules that I’ve drafted that I believe apply to voluntary collective action.
#1: Consensuses are usually weaker than you think.
When people want to change something for the better, they make the mistake of thinking there is a strong consensus around the nature of the problem.
They will also overestimate how much everyone else cares, how much they are motivated to act, and how much everyone else wants the same solution.
Read more here.
There are respectable ways of knowing how things are run and who the beneficiaries are. Over-indulged misdirection about ‘elites’ isn’t one of them.
If you’re looking for good answers to the big old questions around “who runs things around here, and who do they aim to serve?”, then Anthony Downs’ work on ‘rational ignorance’, or Mancur Olson’s on productivity and the logic of collective action from the 1960s and ’70s is a great place to start. Continue reading here.
We can probably agree that, if someone can exert power without responsibility or legitimacy, we have a moral duty to take it from them in any way we can.
If not, please stop reading now.
Continue reading here.
Often, when I see points that are made supposedly from a ‘pro-liberal democracy’ viewpoint, I’m reinforced in the view that liberal democracy is not really understood by many of its supposed defenders.
(Yes — this post is prompted by developments in Ukraine).
Liberal democracy has an essential motor that runs it: Representation.
This was published in openDemocracy recently. The only thing I’d change to the idea is that I’d change this from “it could be 100% tax-deductible, or claimable from welfare payments” to “it could be 100% tax-deductible from VAT, because everyone pays at least £50 a year in VAT, right?”
(The average household generates around £4,700 in VAT income to the treasury).
Electoral politics is hugely distorted by the fact that it designed to serve the interests of the political donors, hobbyists and cranks that have the time and energy to dominate the civic space. It doesn’t need to be this way.
As a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA) I was invited to give a lunchtime talk about this at the Royal Society of the Arts on 17th January 2020. A quick outline is here. I will publish the full text of the talk in due course.
I’m on the Partly Political Broadcast podcast talking to comedian Tiernan Douieb about Think Tank Funding and the Who Funds You website, along with a few observations on democracy in general.
This is the ‘pull quote’ – from about 39 mins in:
“It is a gross error to think that opaquely funded think-tanks increase the diversity of opinions that are available to us.”
Listen to the whole thing – but for reference, I’m on from about 20mins 45secs to 44mins 30secs, and again on 48mins to the end.
This is a two-parter on Slugger O’Toole.
Part one – the poor design of Article 50 damages both the EU and the UK. Fixing it could be a common cause that we could focus on immediately.
Part two – – now would be a good time to apply the brakes and deliberate.
I was recently interviewed by Mark Thompson for ‘The House of Comments’ podcast about my book ‘Save Democracy – Abolish Voting’.
I hope you find time to listen to it, but if you’re looking for a very short verbal summary of what it’s about (85 secs!), it can be found starting at 16min:20secs in (finishing at 17min:45secs).
We may have reached a point in history where the trajectory that democracy has taken needs to change dramatically, if it is to survive as a respected concept.
Most readers will have an idea of what is meant by the word “democracy”. In many cases, it will be a concept that is so indistinguishable from “electoral politics” that it seems almost contrarian to de-link the two. They’re plainly not the same thing. North Korea and Iran hold elections. On the other hand, very democratic bodies often, correctly, treat the point at which things need to go to a vote as an indictment of their failure to reach a deep consensus.
So much commentary that purports to be about quality of our democracy is, in reality, political advocacy cloaked in a flimsy ethical costume. A call for “a more democratic decision” is often a code for “I want the decision to be made in a way that is more likely to result in my preferred outcome”.
(This article was first published in The Ethical Record, Summer 2018 edition). It can be downloaded in pdf format here.